Organisations going social  3.10.11

Tim Yeaton on Let’s ignore the fact that this the article is a piece of journalism in which the author implicitly praises one of his business outlets.

Another pivotal change is the fact that enterprise IT organizations are now discovering the need to “go social” and join communities as a strategy for leveraging and using more open source software, especially mission-critical components. This significant trend reflects the reality that open source use is becoming a competitive requirement. Even within the firewall of an enterprise, the trend toward collaborative development to share best practices, facilitate code reuse, and enhance developer productivity is escalating rapidly. …

While social development isn’t a challenge for Gen Y developers, it still presents management challenges for enterprises, especially larger ones. Moving at web speed and using social tools still requires some adjustment. For example, new college hires expect to be community participants, yet large enterprises may not be comfortable with this level of transparency. Although open source projects are based on the notion of transparency, collaboration and meritocracy, some corporate policies may prohibit or limit this philosophy, just like some corporate cultures may resist the trend toward openness in development.

Abstracting from software development: We’ll observe that functional units of larger organisations ever more connate with distinct communities and attempt to reap the fruits of theses communities. The trick is to identify your organisation’s gems and me-too’s to achieve the maximum degree of openness without compromsing your business model.

dataloss.db  27.10.10

The so-called Open Security Foundation has set up a publicly view- and editable database to collect and share information about, well, data losses:

DataLossDB is a research project aimed at documenting known and reported data loss incidents world-wide. The effort is now a community one, and with the move to Open Security Foundation’s, asks for contributions of new incidents and new data for existing incidents.

May it help those virtual runaway bits to come back to their motherships. Such as:

New York breach notification: Bear Sterns – client information accidentally was viewable by 2 unauthorized firms. 442 NY residents potentially exposed.  (Source)

If only Bear Sterns had exposed just those 442 New Yorkers. Anyhow. Data losses are a societal problem, especially when incidents climb up to the dimensions of the Heartland Payment Systems case with their 130,000,000 records or the T-Mobile Germany incident, which affected some 17,000,000 customers.

“adhocracy” – yet another governance-kid on the block  25.10.10

Piotr Konieczny proposes in the recent issue of the Journal of Information Technology & Politics that Wikipedia is an “adhocracy”. Adhocracies, as suggested by Mintzberg and McHugh in the mid-eighties, have the following five features:

1. They operate in a complex and dynamic environment and are highly innovative. 2. Innovations require highly trained and motivated experts. 3. The experts may be formally allocated to different divisions but usually work in informal, multidisciplinary teams. 4. Coordination and communication rely on semiformal structures, while more formalized structures and managerial practices are rare. 5. Parts of the organization are highly decentralized.

Konieczny sees “fundamental similarities” between “adhocracy” to the “open-source development models”. He uses Bauwens’ concept of commons-based peer production as an example of those “open-source development models”. All the characteristics of Bauwens’ cbpp would also define to “adhocracy”. All, but one: “financial gain as a motivator”.

The problem here is that Bauwens uses a normatively stricter, more egalitarian, less capitalistic version of Benkler’s commons-based peer production. Benkler uses Wikipedia as an example for commons-based peer production, Konieczny for adhocracy. I don’t quite get it. A rather mediocre article, even more so as the review of the Wikipedia research literature appears to be incomplete.

Konieczny, Piotr (2010) ‘Adhocratic Governance in the Internet Age: A Case of Wikipedia’, Journal of Information Technology & Politics, 7: 4, 263 — 283 (DOI: 10.1080/19331681.2010.489408)

Limits of commons-based peer production at Wikipedia  28.9.10

I’ve just returned from an inspiring weekend at a conference on Wikipedia in Leipzig, Germany. The title of the conference, CPOV, Critical Point of View, a bit awkward at first, is derived from Wikimedia Foundation’s demand for “neutral point of view“, which all Wikimedia articles should adhere to.

Geert Lovink, professsor at Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences and one of the conceptual figures behind this conference series with previous stops in Bangalore and Amsterdam, pointed out that the location of the conference and the conference language, German, were not chosen by chance. The German-language Wikipedia still is the second largest behind the English one, and the German-language Wikipedia research community appears to be larger than the English counterpart.

Furthermore, one of the, well, peculiar things about Germany culture, it’s Vereinswesen (culture of associations and chapters), has become the organisational role model for Wikipedia. Under pressure by the successful Spanish Wikipedia fork, Enciclopedia libre, Jimmy Wales & Co decided to transfer the Wikipedia assets (e.g. it’s domain name) away from their tits&porn business to the newly and specifically founded Wikimedia Foundation.

From my perspective as a student of community-driven internet security operations, two things were particularly interesting: The concept and model of peer production – or, to be precise, the commons-based mutation as defined by Yochai Benkler – starts getting wider acceptance in the scientific community as a theoretical starting point for researching non-hierarchical and non-market governance approaches. Until now, I had the impression I would almost be the only one using it as a framework for empirical analysis.

The second observation: Wikipedia, which is always mentioned as the poster-child of collective, distributed, peer-producing collaboration on the internet, has numerous layers of control built into its organisational and operational structure. While access to resources is unrestricted, the right to edit and commit changes is getting ever harder, at least for those 0.4% of all Wikipedia articles that are on average protected at any point in time (as of 2008), a sharp increase from 0.05% in 2003. These “protective” measures are taken to defend existing pages from being vandalised or deteriorated in edit-wars.

Wikipedia thus loses some of its openness (““The encyclopedia anyone can edit”). The authority over the revocation of general edit rights lies with a relatively small group of administrators, who have turned into a de facto club with high entrance barriers. Newcomers have to invest substantial amounts of time, efforts and cultural adaptability to climb up the administrative Wikipedia ladder. Lengthy process instructions put increased demands on administrators and authors, new roles increase the organisational complexity within Wikimedia/pedia.

Historically, one could argue that Wikipedia has grown out of its infancy. From an institutional perspective, it sheds some light on the viability of common-based peer production in an unfriendly environment which attracts malevolents and informational opponents to get engaged in vandalism and edit-wars. While access to Wikipedia’s products, its articles, remains commons-based, the definition of its products doesn’t. It has, in part, been clubbified.

I’ve discussed the session on “Digitale Governance” in greater detail at the CPOV website (in deutsch, though).

26C3: internet politics 2010, defence of the digital habitat, internet utopia, decentralized technologies and implementing Cryptonomicon  6.1.10

“It seems like the Crypt is their worst nightmare.”
(Neil Stephenson, Cryptonomicon)

China spearheads the anything-goes movement of technology-based societal control, authoritarian countries worldwide follow suit, and we yet don’t know whether western democracies will manage to at least remain in their currently mediocre shape if one of the many ongoing global developments and crisis should ever have a major and disruptive societal impact. From the perspective of the freedom and unhindered flow of information, the internet makes a bad expression these days and things haven’t changed for the better in the last year and the naughties.
John Perry Barlow’s “fuck them” […]

Crowdsourcing of political investigation? The problem of web-based ad-hoc collaboration  2.12.09

A couple of days ago, I mentioned Wikileaks‘ scoop of leaking the apparently horrid contracts between the Federal Republic of Germany and Toll Collect, a joint-venture of Daimler-Chrysler, Deutsche Telekom and Cofiroute.

When Germany’s leading webpolitics site brought the message (“Toll Collect wird offen”), its leading brain Markus Beckedahl asked his broad and usually helpful audience how, with which tools and techniques some 10,000 pages of contract papers could collaboratively be analyzed to quickly find the rascalities that everyone was expecting to find there. I was split on whether this could work out or not, whether such a task is suited for social ad-hoc collaboration or not.

Back in 2004, I was working with a